It is the story that will never be told.
Looking back, he should have recognized the signs - all the marks of narrative convenience. A chance encounter with a mysterious stranger, on a dark and stormy Kirkwall night. All too eager to leave the Merchant's Guild Hall, he'd strolled through labyrinthine Lowtown, the slow confident swagger of one who's well paid up with the Coterie, and for everyone else there was no better escort than Bianca.
And he wasn't sure when it happened.
This was his city - Nothing happened without his knowledge.
But he turned right. Left. Left again, down serpentine streets. Right, and worn stucco walls became finely tended hedges. Left, and rough cobblestone shifted into a cultivated earthen path. And then he had to stop, bewildered and utterly lost in a garden that was not in his city, and perhaps not even on Thedas.
"Greetings to you, Varric Tethras, in this place." The tall human (but then, what human wasn't tall?) welcomed him, robed and hooded in dark brown, and he cast no shadow despite the old red sun that hung in the sky.
Notoriety was slightly more familiar territory. "You know of me?"
"I know of everyone." The man shifted the book that he carried, chains clinking where it was bound to the wrist. Varric couldn't read the words on its cover, but it looked extremely heavy. "You tell stories."
"What can I say?" He smiled, spread out his hands in a disarming gesture. "All businessmen have their quaint, little hobbies."
"Most stories fall under my brother's domain, things that are not, were not, and never will be, but too often are their heroes constrained by mine."
Varric chuckled uneasily, furrowed his brow. "I'm afraid I don't understand."
"That which is. Of actions and choices and consequences; truthful tales that are the hardest to tell."
"Is this what they call the Fade?" He said, asking the obvious question. He'd heard the rumors, of course, mages in the Gallows fleeing out into Kirkwall's dark, twisting streets, and right on through the Veil. "Because if this is, I can't say that anyone will believe it... a dwarf in the Fade."
"No. This place is beyond dreaming, beyond beginnings and endings. Where the storyteller exists, alone." The man's impassive face then flickered with an almost fleeting moment of sympathy, some shared weight. He tilted his head down, opening his great tome as alacritous fingers skimmed along its aged pages with sightless eyes. "I am sorry, I had thought that you might... ah, I see. Not yet. No matter."
The man flipped several hundreds pages from left to right, once more finding his place, and turned to go.
"Hey now," Varric protested, stepping forward as if to stop him, and, instead, stepping right smack into the door of the Hanged Man.
He needed a hell of a lot of drinks after that. But even as the story faded, under the haze of alcohol and with the passage of time, it was never forgotten.
It is the story he has held back a thousand times, watching her own unravel and unwind, a woman thrust into forces beyond her control, never knowing if each choice she has made was the right one.
It swam in his throat, pressed against his teeth, seeing how she and the healer danced around each other, fell in love with and changed each other, thinking that it would only end in tears.
And the story almost escapes him, now, as the Seeker paces, demanding the truth from him, the outside observer, and he slumps against the high-back chair, utterly weary, for truth is hard and bound with heavy chains.
Sighing, Varric takes the book in hand, this story he will never get away from, and his fingers brush the Hawke crest, reading through gloves and skin - a pantomime of a blind man long ago.
"You'll need to hear the whole story." He smiles sadly, and understands the mystery man's empathy at last.
No one ever wants to know the storyteller's story. Their burden, after all, is always the same.